FAIRFIELD — A brief chat, questions and answers, followed by a handshake between a young man and a much older college recruiter.
Andrew Horton, a 17-year old senior at Will C. Wood High School, shook hands with Alan H. Rowe, who was doing recruitment Monday night for Benedict College.
Horton was no longer just another senior among hundreds of seniors at a school in a midsize town in the outlying Bay Area. He was now potentially on his way to being a college freshman, conditionally admitted to the college 2,700 miles away in Columbia, S.C.
Whether Horton attains the goal or whether the goal even fits his needs in the upcoming months is yet to be seen. But the goal is there to be had.
Horton followed his verbal acceptance to college with talk of playing basketball for the college. Rowe was quick and adamant, in a fatherly kind of way, that basketball should be the last thing on his mind.
“All you should be thinking about is getting those grades up,” Rowe told the potential college student.
The grades were not good, but Benedict only requires a 2.0 GPA for admission and with the college consistently being a strong contender in the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament, the match between student and college could be fulfilling.
They came by the hundreds, local high school students, most accompanied by a doting parent looking over their shoulder, to Mount Calvary Baptist Church as the church hosted its fifth Historically Black College Recruitment Fair. A similar event took place Tuesday in Vallejo.
Many arrived early. A crowded lobby of students, transcripts and registration cards in hand, listened anxiously as Rowe, one of dozens of college recruiters at the meeting hall, gave them some advice.
“You many not think you are going to college, but take the time to fill out one to three applications. Do not just look around without taking action. If you are a senior you can get accepted to college tonight and many of you will receive scholarship offers tonight.”
Many students greeted the news of scholarship opportunities with a collective exclamation of “Amen.”
Last year’s college fair at the church included recruiters offering nearly $3 million in scholarships to local students, trying to give them motivation to leave California and head east, according to Louise McNeill, a member of Mount Calvary and the chairwoman for the scholarship ministry.
“We know it’s getting harder for students, black and white, to get in to and to afford California’s colleges,” Rowe said.
Rowe, who also heads up the United College Action Network, is part of a drive to enlist students from the West to enroll in more than 40 four-year historically black colleges and universities, mostly in the Southeast.
Rowe points to the Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., as one of several schools looking to grow their enrollment by reaching out, across the country, with scholarships and support. Over the din of the crowded meeting hall, a Bennett counselor said the school hopes to grow next year from 800 students to 1,100 students.
James M. Reed is an admissions counselor for Tougaloo College, located in Jackson, Miss.
“Even though we’re more than a thousand miles away, I still meet and lot of parents who are from Mississippi,” Reed said.
Reed is quick to point out to parents and their teens that the school, with its nearly 1,000 students, is consistently rated by The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report as one of the “Best Colleges in the Southeast.”
One of those Mississippi parents was Loreen Jackson, who brought her 16-year-old to the college fair to learn about his choices and options in the next two years.
They had been in the meeting hall less than 20 minutes before Jay Johnson, a counselor for Miles College in Birmingham, Ala., a college with more than 1,800 students, was looking over the teen’s transcripts and telling him many music majors at his college receive scholarships and those with better grades than he currently has can get scholarships that pay for everything except for books.
“He can get his grades up for that,” Jackson said.
Fore more information on historically black college recruitment efforts, visit www.ucangotocollege.org.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.
If you missed the local college fair, there will be additional college fairs this week in the Bay Area and Sacramento area: